Brands including Sky, British Gas and Virgin Media O2 have backed an open letter that asks social networks to rein in climate misinformation.
The letter is addressed to the chief executives of Meta, Google, Twitter, TikTok and Reddit, and appeals to them to thwart monetisation of climate misinformation, enforce fact-checking and bar ads that count as climate misinformation.
Other signatories include divisions from four of the big six ad holding companies: Omnicom Media Group UK, IPG Mediabrands, Havas Media and Dentsu.
The letter was co-ordinated by recently formed pressure group Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), which is an international alliance that includes the more-established Conscious Advertising Network and several civil society groups.
CAAD wants social networks to accept its formal definition of climate dis/misinformation as content that:
- Undermines the existence or impacts of climate change, the unequivocal human influence on climate change, and the need for corresponding urgent action according to the IPCC scientific consensus and in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement;
- Misrepresents scientific data, including by omission or cherry-picking, in order to erode trust in climate science, climate-focused institutions, experts, and solutions; or
- Falsely publicises efforts as supportive of climate goals that in fact contribute to climate warming or contravene the scientific consensus on mitigation or adaptation.
The letter has also been signed by several individuals working in marketing, including Jerry Daykin, vice-president of media at Beam Suntory, Suzie Rook, head of brand and design at SSE (which is also a brand signatory), and Simon Groves, director of brand and marketing at Virgin Media O2.
Former Unilever chief executive Paul Polman has also signed. Unilever itself has not, but its politically active ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has.
Other signatories from the advertising and marketing sector include VCCP, Accenture Song, M&C Saatchi, Goodstuff Communications, Ebiquity and the AAR.
CAAD has publicised the letter at a press conference at COP27, the UN conference on climate change being held in Egypt this week, in addition to its own research into which specific examples of climate misinformation are prevalent in the UK, US, Brazil, Australia, India and Germany.